Bayesian Background Priors

[Written by John W. Loftus] A lot is made by Christian philosophers about their background "priors" when assessing the truth of Christian theism. Their claim is that with their particular "priors" they are warranted in concluding from those "priors" the evidence leads them to their faith. My claim is that they have the cart before the horse, big time, bad time.

For if the Christian "priors" are truly "priors" then they need to be there "prior."

So here you are wondering whether Christian theism is true. You were probably raised to believe in this Christian culture but now as the adult you have become you want to examine the case for yourself.

So when doing so what are your "priors" at that point? That is, what do you know and when? When do you place which "priors" into your bag of "priors"?

Name them in order to the best of your ability. And tell me how you arrived at them without using any subsequent ones.

Now for the punch, Hear ye, O' hear ye!

No amount of philosophical thinking alone will produce the conclusion that any event actually took place in the past, much less a miraculous resurrection. So on the one hand, in order to establish the Christian faith believers must use historical evidence at every juncture. But on the other hand, in order to see that evidence as evidence we need to have good reasons to do so. Where do those reasons come from? Not from any “background knowledge” or “priors” of theirs. They cannot use their so-called “background knowledge” or their “priors” to help determine whether the evidence shows Jesus arose from the dead until they can first show that he did. Christians must independently establish that the resurrection took place in history before such a belief can be placed into their bag of "priors."

We can even grant the existence of Yahweh or a creator god and the possibility of miracles and it changes nothing. For what needs to be shown is that Yahweh did such a miracle here in this particular case and the historical tools we have available to assess whether he did are inadequate for the task.

This is both obvious and non-controversial. For the very people in charge of the writing and maintenance of the OT faith, the Jews, believed in Yahweh and miracles and yet did not believe in Jesus--to this day. Yes there are pockets of Jews who do believe, but statistically not many of them at all.

Given this I defy anyone to provide for us a clear and unequivocal non-self-fulfilling prophetic text in the OT that singles Jesus out as the only person who could fulfill it using the historical grammatical method of interpretation. Tim Callahan in Bible Prophecy looks into this with tests and so forth.

It cannot be done.